The Sony SRS-X77 is marketed as a portable wireless speaker with excellent sound and large set of useful features. I’ve used it for some time now and it’s time to dive deep into my experiences with the device.
Comparison with the 2014 model
The SRS-X77 is the successor to the critically well received SRS-X7 model of 2014. Visually not much is different, but a quick look at the spec sheet reveals some noteworthy changes. They’re mostly good improvements, but there is one that sticks out as a strange regression; Apt-X support has been completely dropped. For those who are unfamiliar with Apt-X, it’s basically an audio codec for Bluetooth that promises better sound quality. It’s supported by a great deal of Android phones (recent Samsung models all support Apt-X), as well as other equipment. It’s however proprietary, which means a licensing cost for the manufacturers, which in turn might be the reason it was dropped. Now, I’m no audiophile, and would probably not be able to tell the difference anyhow, so I won’t delve into it any deeper. Also, if you have a Sony phone, it will use their own similar codec (LDAC) to the same effect.
If we look at other differences from the X7 model, we’re pleasantly surprised to learn that the output power has been bumped up from 32 W to 40 Watts, which hopefully translates into some more “umpf”. We can also see (on the product “see-through” pictures) that they have changed the design of the passive radiators, hopefully for the better. Also, the battery life has been almost doubled from 6 to 10 hours of playback time. Feature wise, the speaker now also supports Google Cast, which means you can cast audio content directly from an app that supports it.
Before I start nit-picking this product apart I have to drop a quick disclaimer; the biggest one being that I don’t have much experience with products in this form factor. But if you’re like me and mostly have experience with headphones, computer speakers and/or mid/full tower speakers, then we’ll probably be on the same page. If you on the other hand already have experience with portable speakers like the Loewe Speaker 2go, H/K Onyx Studio, Bose Soundlink or something similar, then this review will not be fine-grained enough to give you much to go on.
Let’s get to the most important part first; the sound.
The sound is… good. It’s not fantastic, but it’s definitely not bad. As a $200 portable speaker, it is probably comparable to a $50 computer speaker system, if I have to do a rough comparison.
If I sit down and do a side-by-side comparison with my current PC speakers, the Logitech Z4 (which happens to have the same power output), I can only conclude that the sound from the X77 is less natural, more strained, colder and somewhat boxed-in. On it’s own however, you quickly adjust and land somewhere between feeling indifferent to straight up impressed, depending on what is playing. That last part is of significant importance here; depending on what kind of music you will be playing your mileage will vary. I have found that genres like Electronic (e.g. EDM, Dance, Trance), Classical, Lounge and Vocal really do best on the X77. Pop, Hip-Hop/RnB also work well. Rock and Metal do not fare as well, as the X77 simply cannot accurately reproduce the tight kicks or the finer details of the combined instruments present in these kinds of genres. It all just sounds a bit too mushy overall.
If I had the chance to redesign the product, I’d prefer a slightly larger woofer element, and that the passive elements were replaced with tweeters and that the two full-range elements were more mid-range focused. I think that could have given crisper sound while making the bass a bit tighter. Then again, I’m no audio engineer. EDIT: This is actually almost how X77’s big brother, the X88, is designed.
The X77 is a solid build. Some have described it as it being “built like a tank”, but I wouldn’t go that far. It’s plastic all around, and I assume that the glossy top scratches easily. It has rubber feet to keep if from slipping around, and they do a really good job to keep it in place. While other things on the table start moving about when the volume (and bass) goes up, the X77 stands fast. This is also probably helped by the fact that it is just shy of 2kg. This might be worth considering if you plan to use it as a traveling speaker.
The buttons on the top are all capacitive, except the on/off button, and they all work fine. What I find is missing is any sort of track control (next/previous, play/pause). It has small elegant LED:s on the top indicating the current audio source and power status.
The X77 comes jam-packed with features. There are multiple ways of playing audio content; Google Cast, AirPlay, Spotify Connect, AUX, DLNA and Bluetooth. I’ve mostly been using Bluetooth and Spotify Connect, and can confirm that Bluetooth works as expected, and it is especially easy to pair the phone using the NFC quick-setup which is located on the top of the device. Spotify Connect has been a bit of a mixed bag, but it has been working well for the most part. I’ve had some trouble where the device wouldn’t show up in Spotify without some fiddling, and where the controls sometimes became unresponsive. When it works, it really is fantastically convenient to simply start Spotify and start playing on the device, seamlessly switch between devices in e.g. different rooms. I also tried out Google Cast quickly, and it worked as expected. I have no experience with AirPlay or DLNA at this point, though. AUX works fine, with a normal 3,5mm cable.
The device also has a USB port on the back for charging external devices, such as a mobile phone. It works well, except that it only seems to output 500mA. Modern chargers are usually around 1500-2100mA, so expect to be charging half a day as well as draining the entire battery on the X77 if it’s not connected to the mains. This is obviously not the use-case, it’s more meant as a convenience when you need to put your phone on emergency life support.
Note that unlike it’s little brother (the SRS-X55), this model comes without a built in microphone for hands-free functionality. This was something I missed when I ordered the X77 over the X55, which I had originally planned to purchase (well, actually it stood between X55 and Audio Pro T3, and X77 happened to be the compromise).
To get the most out of the X77 one must install the Sony SongPal app. It’s used to setup Wi-Fi as well as for multi-room functionality, playing songs over DLNA and some misc settings like tweaking EQ and power-saving mode. If you’re satisfied with streaming over Bluetooth out-of-the-box, you’ll do fine without the app.
I won’t make any guess-timations about battery life, but the claimed battery life on Sony’s website and on the product packaging is 10 hours of playback. This is not entirely true, and borderline marketing scam, because looking in the manual it is “10 hours with Wi-Fi off, 3 hours with Wi-Fi on”. Now, this doesn’t concern me too much, as I’m only likely to be using Wi-Fi when I’m at home (and close to an outlet), but it’s still an ugly move by Sony.
Just like I learned that the battery life is much lower when using Wi-Fi reading the manual, I was also surprised to learn that when on battery, the speakers drop from 40 W output to 26 W. This is not something I can confirm have any practical effect as the speakers certainly seem to be loud enough even just at half volume. I can’t confirm that there is any change to sound quality when running on battery either, so this was just more of a side-note than any sort of critique.
Personally, I don’t really think it is worth the $200 price tag it has today. I’d wait until it drops to somewhere around the $150 before considering the purchase. It sounds good, but don’t expect it to replace any of your non-portable audio solutions. It’s a nice addition if you want to bring the music with you, around at home, in the back yard, or on the beach.
If you’re looking for something more portable, you might want to have a look at the SRS-X55, which weighs 700 grams less and comes with hands-free functionality, but lacks all the Wi-Fi features.
If you’re on the other hand looking for something even bigger, you might want to have a look at the big brother SRS-X88. The price takes a sudden leap upwards $400, and it is no longer portable by any means. What it promises to deliver however is a proper Hi-Fi experience (not my words…), while seamlessly integrating with the other the other Sony SRS line WiFi products.
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